Kosovo is a territory which is hard to define. We are the witnesses to this Balkan phenomenon even nowadays. It is a conflict playground of various ethnic minorities and interests – in other words, it’s a spot of contrasts which has no parallel in modern Europe. Moreover, the Kosovo area is the cradle of Serbian spirituality, the territory of Serbian medieval heroes who, risking life and limb, defended Europe against the penetration of militant Islam brought by Ottoman Turks. It is a land of numerous temples and monasteries the uniqueness of which is known also beyond the Balkan borders. It is at the same time the territory of the Albanian National Revival that begun to develop in the second half of the 19th century right in Kosovo. That means it’s the common territory of the Serbs and Albanians. Both ethnic groups enjoyed the period of harmonious coexistence when they jointly faced the pitfalls of history. However, it was the same pitfalls that split them and forced them to live in hatred. European liberal thinking seeks only with difficulty an efficient remedy for this hatred that reigns over Kosovo. Owing to the fact that Kosovo is the territory of Serbian spirituality and simultaneously Albanian National Revival, i.e. the territory of insurmountable contrasts, it is quite comprehensible that both nations were supposed to encounter sooner or later. Typical features characterising the history of Serbian-Albanian relations in the last century are skirmishes, dominance and irreconcilability. Recently, the International Community has attempted to solve the conflicts mentioned, however, lacking patience and without the merest knowledge of the conflict. In addition to this it chose the way of violence as well. The violence was used with the aim of securing a harmonious multi-ethnic coexistence for Kosovo. Unfortunately, this illusion may hardly be brought to life without the use of violence. The final result of the crackdown in question was the ghettoisation of one ethnic group by another one. At present, Kosovo Serbs have been living in enclaves around their temples and monasteries fully isolated like nobody else throughout Europe. Yet sadder is the fact that they will probably never return, or rather, they cannot and also Serb exiles don’t want to return to their homes in Kosovo which were destroyed by the UCK during the war (1).
The majority of the statements for the media as well as political statements of the representatives of the so-called International Community highlight the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo. In this way the International Community strives to present an image of Kosovo being in pursuit of ideal goal. However, in reality the degree of hatred, fear and suspicion between particular ethnic groups remains at the same level as after the cessation of bombardment in 1999. In the course of last five years, the International Community hasn’t accepted this fact, it has even proclaimed through all of its representatives, or rather, the representatives of the UNMIK civilian administration, that Kosovo has been heading towards multi-ethnicity in a peaceful way ignoring all facts which have distinctly proved the contrary. They even affirmed it after the outbreak of anti-Serbian disturbances in March 2004. This was confirmed also by the former UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari whose plan for the solution to the Kosovo status wasn’t passed.
There is still an absence of at least a whiff of answers to the following questions: In what way shall we deal with Kosovo? How does it fit into Europe? What should be the interaction between Kosovo and Serbia like? How to convince ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, southern Serbia and also Macedonia to refrain from violence? What will be the next step in Kosovo in order to prevent the repeated radicalisation of Serbia? How to guarantee a peaceful coexistence of diverse ethnic minorities when their relations are plagued by complicated historical heritage and mutual ethnic stereotypes? Out of the view angle of the negotiations remains along with the unfulfilled standards of minority rights also the burning question of the current development of Kosovo, i.e. the situation of the expelled Kosovo citizens and the possibility of their return to towns which they were either expelled from after the NATO military intervention and helpless KFOR assistance or which they fled from themselves in fear of their lives. Owing to its insufficient will to negotiate, as was also the case in Rambouillet in 1999, the International Community will be forced to adopt the resolution to solve the Kosovo status regardless of the irreconcilability of both parties involved. This is sure to happen without the satisfactory solution of just a single question! And since these issues aren’t tackled prior to the solution to the status question, there is no reason to assume that anything will be automatically dealt with after its granting. Kosovo will thus remain the area of contrasts and ethnic intolerance
Serbian guarantees and possible threats
It is not excluded that apart from Kosovo also Serbia could be given firmer guarantees so that a faster EU and NATO integration is facilitated. Serbia has the qualification to become a powerful factor of stability in south-eastern Europe. From this point of view the speed at which the intensity and quality of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo will develop is likely to be crucial. At the same time we cannot forget about the co-called great national strategies that exist on the Balkans, although they seemed to have perished following the defeat of Slobodan Milošević’s Great Serbian Strategy. After the period of a massive criminalisation of politics and the politicisation of criminal underground we may envisage that the Great Albanian Strategy is under the control of criminalised political structures or politicised criminal underground.
In any case it gradually becomes clear that the Kosovo question will be dealt with not earlier than next year during the Slovenian EU presidency. This was confirmed by the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša on 26th September in New York (2). The Slovenian PM underscored simultaneously that all open-ended questions concerning the Western Balkans were to be solved by logical methods whereas the Kosovo issue shouldn’t have been linked with other open-ended questions. Nevertheless, it will be exactly Kosovo that is sure to be indisputably one of the most difficult tasks to cope with that Slovenia inherits from the current Portuguese EU presidency.
Therefore we dare to express such an opinion that Kosovo will most probably not gain independence for the foreseeable future. From world’s political and diplomatic experience emerges that it will have to wait for the presidential elections in Russia which are in the pipeline for March 2008. World powers are interested what the destiny of the current Russian President Vladimir Putin will be like and what form will the Russian involvement in the Balkans have. Moreover, presidential elections will be held also in the US in 2008. In the pre-election period, nobody will run the risk of slimming down the chances for an election win. That’s why the US will do for Kosovo just a minimum necessary to maintain local citizens on anti-depressants, although they will actively uphold them verbally. Simultaneously, the economic as well as political strengthening of Serbia is to be expected. This will result in the struggle to replace Kosovo by the Republic of Serbia which is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At present, such a scenario is likely in Beograd, since the representatives of Bosnian Serbs disapprove of the reforms pushed through by the High Representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina Miroslav Lajčák.
Europe is likely to play the role of an independent and objective observer in this situation. It seems that a single step undertaken by NATO could change everything for the better and particularly contribute to the stabilisation of security situation in the Balkans. This step would be the NATO enlargement by the countries of the so-called Adriatic Group (i.e. Croatia, Macedonia and Albania). This would interfere with Kosovo’s potential claims to north-western Macedonia as well as the expansion of Russian influence on poor Balkan states lived in primarily by orthodox people. Last but not least, this step would confirm the position of the US as the architect of the new arrangement of the Balkans.
Thus should be interpreted also the negative reaction of the Serbian President Boris Tadić to the statements concerning Kosovo’s independence presented by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York according to which there is only one way to establish the stability in the whole of the Balkans. He further emphasised that similar statements didn’t contribute to the reaching of compromise among the participants in the negotiations (3). There are concurrently no alternatives to a compromise solution as regards the Kosovo problem. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia in Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik has added fuel to the flames warning that a unilateral recognition of Kosovo by individual states will stir up incontrollable processes in the Republic of Serbia, cause problem in the internal structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina and destabilise the entire Balkan region from a long-term perspective (4). According to Dodik in such a case various attitudes to the situation arisen will be formed, whereas one of them will be the demand for an equal right to independence for everyone.
The economic reconstruction of Kosovo
Although nobody knows exactly how and when the Kosovo issue will be solved, the European Union plans to carry out an extensive operation in this region. The essence will rest in vast financial relief with the aim of supporting the growth of the Kosovo economy. The relief will amount to the sum of approximately 1.5 billion euro in the course of the next three years. Apart from this the US will invest in Kosovo several million dollars in the same way. They will arrange donor conferences at which also further European states will pledge sources for the reconstruction of Kosovo. It is to be expected that the World Bank will play the key role in the coordination of donor activities while the International Monetary Fund will sort out the preparation of the economic policy strategy in Kosovo.
Nevertheless, lots of sceptics in the Balkans say ironically that Kosovo has never been built, thus it is inconceivable to reconstruct nowadays. Anyway, for Kosovo as well as the entire region, but primarily for neighbouring Macedonia, since there is a numerous Albanian minority, which retains close economic ties with Priština, living in its north-western part, two questions are pivotal:
A) What is the most essential feature of the Kosovo economic growth?
The EU plans to participate actively in the construction of the new subject’s institutions. Nowadays, it is reckoned that around 1,500 people, who are supposed to assume diverse positions within the Kosovo administration and various state bodies, will move to Kosovo. Such a plentiful mission of advisors in such a small country is really a rare undertaking. International financial institutions have been preparing to accept huge responsibility for the acquisition and investments of finances as well as the shaping of short-term and medium-term economy policy. The central question, however, will be the liberalisation and normalisation of internal and predominantly external economic relations of Kosovo. The most important role will be to secure the functioning of internal markets as well as the access to world markets. The EU was intent on the establishment of a free trade zone in the Balkans which would facilitate the integration of the Kosovo economy into regional economic relations.
Is it a correct deliberation that Kosovo’s economy growth won’t be feasible if Kosovo preserves the form of an internal political entity. It must have access mainly to regional markets in order to maintain a standard-functioning economy. This presupposes the normalisation of political situation in Kosovo itself as well as the relations with its neighbours. In the context given it might the most crucial thing to normalise the relations with Serbia, which claimed also Martti Ahtisaari in his plan. Obviously, this is not an easy task.
Thus, Kosovo has to make a firm decision that it will be a responsible political partner primarily in terms of the relations with its neighbours. It would in this way gain independence due to the strengthening of region stability. Subsequently, this should result in the normalisation of political and economic relations. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be sufficient for the normalisation of the relations with Serbia, since besides the implementation of specific requirements regarding Priština, the decisive fact will be also the way the Serbian political representatives will behave. Irrespective of the fact that Serbia has a vested interest in the use of advantages which the membership of Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA) brings to its economy, the local public has become more radical in opinions. Therefore it is still more difficult to speak of the normalisation of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia. If its normalisation is further delayed, which is highly probable, and its hostile character is reinforced, it will mean big trouble for the development of the Kosovo economy. Anyway, under usual circumstances Kosovo would obviously achieve a remarkable level in terms of foreign trade with Serbia.
B) What could such an aid to Kosovo represent for Macedonia?
It is evident that close relations between the citizens of Kosovo and Macedonia, this applies first and foremost to Macedonian citizens of Albanian origin, as well as common border between both countries may have a positive effect on the possibilities of exporting Macedonian products to Kosovo in the future. We may also envisage that those investors which show interest in selling their products on the Kosovo market will broaden their interests by placing their capacities in Macedonia as well. Even the migration of abundant foreign citizens, who will come to work and spend their money in Kosovo, could contribute to the increase of the demand for Macedonian products as well as the investments in Macedonian real estate. This would enable a much wider utilisation of tourist capacities in Kosovo and predominantly in Macedonia.
Also from the viewpoint of the mobility of workforce the reconstruction of Kosovo may have a positive impact on Macedonian economy. Many labourers could by employed in reconstruction works and the building of local infrastructure. Simultaneously, the market liberalisation within the entire territory of the Western Balkans will thus become even larger and the EU activity will positively influence other countries of the region as well, namely Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.
All of these facts refer to the possibilities which will start to appear thank to an increased involvement of the European Union in this part of the Balkans. Obviously, owing to raised economy growth as well as the stable presence of NATO forces the improvement of security situation in the region should later become reality. It means however, that the whole of this process will carry huge challenges not only for Kosovo, but also for Serbia and, of course, Macedonia. However, it is a systematic process. The challenges mentioned should ensure positive results and that would be for the first time in this region after a long period of vacuum. It would represent also an ultimate stop of the danger of the new wave of ethnic conflicts and riots in the Western Balkans.
Considering all facts everything seems unreal, because Kosovo may change into the so-called container state where thousands of people will be detained in order not to emigrate to the EU or the US. Serbia has succeeded in crushing such a stereotype up to now. Anyway, European agencies will hopefully get the message across that the Italian company Enel, the German company RWE and the US company AEC have shown the interest in constructing a new thermal power plant supplied with coal in Kosovo (4). Coal supplies are estimated at approximately ten million tonnes and in connection with the construction of the power plant it is assumed that electric energy is likely to be exported from Kosovo to Albania, Macedonia and Serbia. Nowadays, however, due to the bad condition of two power plants in Kosovo it is not possible to secure the supplies for Priština itself. The Kosovo leaders hope that the province’s situation will change for the better by solving its status and the arrival of investors. To be perfectly frank, these are still just hopes.